BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An average of 10 people die in the U.S. from drowning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Twenty percent of them are 14-year-olds or younger.
A Baton Rouge business aims to reduce that statistic by offering free swim lessons to children whose parents might not be able to afford classes.
Swimming can be a scary thing for first timers. Many children enter a swimming pool without ever having lessons.
Just the idea of putting their faces in the water can be frightening. But, for some, that is going to change this summer. More than 200 of them are learning from the professionals at Crawfish Aquatics.
Coach Nan Fontenot supervises the deck as some 35 instructors guide their students through the water.
"Every instructor that has been hired here, I tell them there is one reason you are here and that's to save a life," Fontenot said.
The children are of different ages and abilities. They belong to local church groups and non-profit organizations. Through sponsored donations, Crawfish Aquatics is able to offer select groups two weeks of swim lessons free of charge.
Torrence Thomas and his brother Thurman not only help fund the program, they dive in too.
"It is one of the most beautiful experiences that you will ever witness. You have someone come in super afraid and by the end their confidence is bursting out of them," Torrence Thomas said.
Fontenot has watched the program grow from a small group of children seven years ago to 130 this summer. She said the students are getting more than just a life-saving lesson. They are also connecting with others.
"We don't know. Some of those kids might not get much love and hugs back home," Fontenot said.
Fontenot said they also leave the pool with a new found confidence that they will carry with them long after their final lesson.
"I have not only seen them overcome the fear of swimming, but, often times, they do better in school and sports because that fear holds them back," Fontenot said.
Crawfish Aquatics is also offering CPR classes this summer for $10. They will be held on Saturday, June 25 from 8 to 10 a.m. and Thursday, July 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.